One Week in Paris
By Maya Shaw
My name is Maya Shaw and I am a fashion design major, class of 2015! My global classroom took a trip to Paris, France for our Survey of Fashion course that is a requirement for fashion design and merchandising majors. Fashion has been my life since I can remember and where there is fashion there must be Paris! This trip was an experience I will never forget and I am now going to share my experience with you!
On March 7 I couldn’t believe that it was finally time to board the Air France plane to our destination. The whole plane ride I was antsy and excited, I had no idea what to expect! I was scared because so many friends and family who had once been to Paris had warned me about how rude the French were to Americans. I didn’t want to mess up the language at a restaurant or in a store and have the waiter or sales associate hate me: I had too many emotions flying around at one time. Finally all my stress put me to sleep and when I woke up we had smoothly touched down in France!
And so it really began: people immediately speaking to me in french, signs written in french, people speaking french all around me, it was pretty intimidating so I was glad that I had practiced the language before I left. When we finally reached Paris from the airport everything was different. All of the buildings were old and gorgeous, all of the cars were tiny, all of the people were walking, talking, smoking and living their everyday lives like living in Paris was no big deal. When we checked into the hotel we immediately went into our neighborhood for the week: the beautiful and historic 18th arrondissement or the Montmartre area. Everything was so beautiful and I kept telling myself that it wasn’t real, I wasn’t in Paris and that this was too amazing to be real life!
After roaming the area our first day and sharing a delicious first meal all together we were all so tired, there was no energy to go out at night. The next day began all of the amazing trips to museums. We took a trip to the historic Marais district and visited the Musee Carnavalet. This museum had a stunning collection of couture garments by famous french fashion designers owned by Alice Alleaume called “The Novel of a Wardrobe: The Parisian Chic from the Belle Epoque to the 1930s”. The museum had more collections of art and decorative art from the past related to French history as well. Next we visited the Clignancourt Flea Market that was the very first flea market in the world. There was an amazing urban art store that sold prints by world renowned graffiti artist like Obey and novelty toys like Be@rbricks. There was also a vintage shop filled with clothing from the 60s, 70s and 80s. The sale store owner was so sweet and helpful and I bought a great handmade vintage dress at a great price. We used the metro to go everywhere that we needed to. The Parisian metro wasn’t hard to get used to at all and by the end of the week I didn’t need to look at a map anymore to go where I needed to go!
On Monday we took a visit to the Paris College of Art. I didn’t know what to expect from visiting another college so I wasn’t too excited, boy was I wrong. After receiving a tour of the university’s fashion design facilities and viewing some of the work that the students produced I quickly wanted to move to Paris and attend this school! We received a great lecture from the fashion department chair, who was the former CEO of Jean-Paul Gaultier, Donald Potard. After the lecture we were invited to the rooftop terrace to take pictures and to see the amazing view that the school offers of Paris. Mr. Potard was so kind he spoke to all of us on a personal level and even took a photo with a Marymount t-shirt. Next we traveled to rue Montorgueil for a delicious lunch before heading to the Louvre which was so stunning and large!
Tuesday was the day that I had been waiting for what has seemed like forever! We were going to visit Champs-Elysees and rue Saint Honore! These are the two most famous streets for shopping in the world! The first place we visited was Colette Boutique. I had been following this store for years and always dreamed about visiting one day. The store was just as beautiful as I imagined with its flawless mix of streetwear fashion and high designer clothing. After Colette we were left to travel on our own. We hopped into some of the swankiest stores such as Chanel, John Galliano, Balmain, Kenzo, Hermes and the largest Louis Vuitton store I had ever seen! All of the people working at these stores were so kind and accommodating even though I’m sure they knew that we were not going to actually buy anything.
On Wednesday we traveled by bus to Versailles and waited in the longest and craziest traffic I had ever encountered! Versailles was mind blowing! We had lunch sitting above the lakes and it was incredible to think that someone actually lived there! Afterwards we took a trip to another museum to view a collection of photographs and garments collected by Conde Nast, the publishing company that creates Vogue. When we were finally free to go on our own I had to make a run to a local pharmacy. In America pharmacies usually have medicine, food, make-up, and other household items. The pharmacies in France were like local beauty stores filled with L’Occitane products, facial creams and cleansers. I bought a pack of face cleansing wipes for 8 euros and just thought I’d try them out. I absolutely love them and they are by far the best cleansing wipes for my skin but, the cost is a whopping $35 here in the United States… I’m going to miss those wipes!
Thursday was another day of shopping and walking, a lot of walking! I cannot reiterate enough how important it was to wear comfortable shoes! So many people complained about their feet hurting including me and the only shoes I brought were Nike sneakers! In the morning we visited Musee du Luxembourg and also visited the Luxembourg gardens which were just stunning on a crisp morning filled with runners and people enjoying a morning coffee! We decided to go back to the Marais district to do some more shopping that we weren’t able to do on the first trip to the area and finally we went to THE most amazing department stores in the world Printemps and Galleries Layfayette. Printemps was trendy, cool and very expensive. There was a bag ( by Vanessa Bruno) that I had seen French women everywhere that we went carrying and if there was one thing I was going to buy myself from this trip it was going to be that bag! Galleries is more comparable to a Nordstrom in the sense that they have their own brand of clothing along with thousands of other designers and individual boutiques such as a Zara and Urban Outfitters. I found the boutique of the designer bag that I wanted and had to make my way through a crowd to grab the one that I wanted: it was really packed!
On Friday, our last day in Paris, we went to an exhibit on Dries Van Noten at the Decorative Arts Museum. Dries Van Noten is an amazing and creative Belgian fashion designer who creates some of the most amazing garments I have ever seen. Everyone agreed that after visiting the exhibit that it was the most amazing thing we had seen while in Paris. We were left to roam the streets of Paris on our own for the last time and of course we went back to rue Saint Honore where a group of other American tourists from Texas approached us to ask where the Chanel store was! It was amazing to see other Americans in another country and really proves just how small our world is. On Saturday when it was time to leave I had mixed feelings once again: here I go back to school, no more amazing French food, no more fashionable people surrounding me 24/7, no more effortless inspiration. Yet, I was ready to speak English again and to sleep in my own bed and to finish the semester out strong with this boost of energy Paris gave me!
This trip was a trip like no other! Seeing all of these historical sites, museums and the clothing prepared me for the rest of the semester in my Survey of Fashion class by giving me the hands on experience that I believe was needed. It has also prepared me for my future, as a Fashion Design major going into the industry in only one year I know that Paris will be on my list of places I must visit again and now I will have no fear of what to expect and I can easily navigate the streets of Paris!